I finally managed to visit the event yesterday morning. They had a pretty decent sized space to show off the work, which was presented on simple and crude modular wooden frame structures. I was a little disappointed that they didn’t go crazy and try to push the space making potential of the frames and making a pavillion/structure, instead of just the basic arrangement that they ended up with.
The work was surprisingly good, in general. What amazed me was that the younger students (2nd and 3rd year) had a much better grasp of design than the older students. I don’t know why that is, but they just seem to be far more confident in their abilities and tend to experiment with new ideas which was, frankly, sorely lacking in the graduation projects that were on display. For example, one of the 3rd year students was using Rhino scripting to design a tesselated roof structure. Impressive!
I’ll post a lot of images at the end, but i’d like to concentrate on one project in particular as I feel it’s indicative of a lot of the design problems that I felt were common to most of the (older) students. The project is by Abdulaziz alKandary and is apparently about ‘humanizing the interaction within neighborhoods’:
The intent of the project, as far as I can tell, was to separate the ‘human’ events of life (living, playing, socializing, etc) from the ‘machine’ events (cars, streets, parking). That’s fair enough, but I don’t think the way the design attempts this is in any way socially responsible and is very dehumanizing. There are several design decisions made that seem to be completely independent of each other; it seems like two different people were designing the project at the same time without feedback from each other. What the student ended up with was a very schizophrenic project that creates far more problems than it solves.
There is simply no clarity of intent. Lots of time and energy was spent into creating the weird looking houses with the random angular shapes. This is fine if you want a special house that ‘looks’ different from everyone else. If so, then why copy and paste that ‘special’ house for all the other lots? The special becomes ordinary and the initial compromise of style over function is obsolete. What if the design of the houses and the form of the interstitial space are part of the same design language?
My point in concentrating on this project is that it is a good example of how architects sometimes get stuck with an idea and aren’t self-critical enough to question that original idea. The student’s goal was to ‘humanize the interaction within neighborhoods’, yet the final product shows no real progress in that regard. There was very little effort made to understand the social implications of the design (other than cursory mention of shared courtyards and landscaping). Why are all the houses the same size? Why not have a varied density of housing modules to attract different size families? Why the absolute rejection of the street? Why not question the existence of the street entirely? The site is fairly small and entirely walkable, so why not have underground parking and leave the entire ground plane walkable? I’m sorry to pick on that one project, but I can’t go through them all, so I had to pick just one and this one stood out to me.
Anyway, here’s more from Module 7: